Column: Improve performance with breathing technique

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Commentary by Seth Tucker

The breath is an extremely powerful tool for improving your physical and mental state, both of which require extra attention during this quarantine. Wim Hof, a Dutch adventurer famed for setting an impressive 26 world records, has popularized a breathing technique to improve both physical and mental performance.

The exercise requires no equipment and the effects can be felt immediately, although there is a compounded effect when performing the technique daily. The effects can also be enhanced through cold exposure. Hof has even earned the moniker of “Iceman” after several fantastic physical feats, such as standing submerged in ice up to his shoulders for 1 hour and 53 minutes; climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in just his shorts; and even running a half-marathon above the Arctic Circle barefoot. However, this method is best begun on the comfort of your own couch. Feel free to play whatever music or sounds you find appropriate.

  • Begin by sitting or lying down in a comfortable position.
  • Fully inhale to your max capacity and then, without force, allow yourself to exhale without letting out all of the air.
  • Without pausing, begin another full inhale and continue this rhythm of “circular breathing” for a total of 30 breaths.
  • After inhaling your 30th breath, exhale completely and stop; do not inhale. Maintain this state without air in the lungs until you feel the urge to breathe. You will find you can last a surprisingly long time without needing to inhale.
  • When the urge to breathe does arise, take in a full breath to your max capacity and hold it in for 15 seconds.
  • After holding this breath for 15 seconds, you may exhale.

That completes one round. It is recommended you start with three consecutive rounds to experience the full benefit. You may progress to add either more rounds or more breaths per round and find what works best for you.

You can expect to feel several odd sensations such as tingling, lightheadedness, a change in temperature or pressure. These symptoms are temporary and signal that you are performing the exercise properly. Embrace them and breathe through it. This technique works great as both a starter and finisher for your day as it charges you upon waking and relaxes you before slumber. It’s even useful to break through a sluggish afternoon. Always check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.


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